Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion, by Hilary Davidson — A Review

Dress in the Age of Jane Austen, by Hilary Davidson (2019)“Fashions come and go; bad taste is timeless.” — Beau Brummell

So saith the arbiter of style in the Regency era when all of Jane Austen’s books were published and she and her characters dwelled. Since fashion is mentioned sparingly in her novels how is one to know, two hundred years after the fact, what is fashionable and what is in bad taste? Is that actress in the current period drama wearing clothing appropriate to the era, her age, and her social status? Is the hero wearing a top hat that Victorian author Charles Dickens would have worn? Is that pelisse polyester, and is a half “updo” hairstyle totally inappropriate? Dress in the Age of Jane Austen, by Hilary Davidson explores these dilemmas for modern readers of Austen’s fiction, the adaptations of her works, and those set during the same timeframe.

When I first opened this book and skimmed its pages, I was overcome by its beauty. Page after page of eye-popping images of Regency clothing, portraits, landscapes, fashion plates, and cartoons by famous artists and illustrators of Austen’s day. The publisher states that the book boasts 180 full-color illustrations, and I do not doubt it. Here is a slide show of a few that I found especially significant to give you a glimpse of the extensive research that the author conducted to bring the book to life.

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Preview of The Official Downton Abbey Cocktail Book: Appropriate Libations for All Occasions, by Annie Gray, and Foreword by Julian Fellowes

The Official Downton Abbey Cocktail Book (2019)“Drinking is very important at Downton Abbey. At least three types of wine are served at every upstairs dinner, plus port for the gentlemen after it. There’s alcoholic punch at parties, plenty of Champagne, and, as the years go by, the gradual adoption of the cocktail.”

And so, begins the introduction to The Official Downton Abbey Cocktail Book by food historian Annie Gray. Continuing, she goes on to describe the mention of American-style cocktails in season two, which takes four more seasons before we see the very proper British butler Mr. Carson reluctantly serving them to the Crawley family and their guests at a pre-dinner gathering. A cocktail party? Are the shades of Downton to be thus polluted? The Dowager Countess of Grantham is shocked. We are amused.

It is her granddaughter Lady Edith who embraces the consumption of alcohol in the series. Living a modern life after being jilted at the altar by Sir Anthony Strallan, and then alone after her lover Michael Gregson moved to Germany in order to renounce his British citizenship so he could divorce his mentally ill wife and marry her. That was the plan until he was murdered. Out of all the main characters in the series, Edith deserved a drink.

There is so much emotional tension swirling in Downton that the audience has needed this cocktail book since the series opener in 2010. Here are more details about the book including a description from the publisher and a slide show of several of the beautifully designed pages.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Timed to coincide with the much-anticipated Downton Abbey movie, this enticing collection of cocktails celebrates the characters, customs, and drinking way of life at Downton Abbey.

Cocktails were introduced in the drawing rooms of Downton Abbey in the 1920s when US prohibition inspired the insurgence and popularity of American-style bars and bartenders in Britain. This well-curated selection of recipes is organized by the rooms in the Abbey in which the drinks were served and spans everyday sips to party drinks plus hangover helpers and more. In addition to classic concoctions like a Mint Julep, Prince of Wales Punch, and Ginger Beer, this collection features character-specific variations such as Downton Heir, Turkish Attaché, The Valet, and The Chauffeur. The recipes reflect drinks concocted and served upstairs and down, as well as libations from village fairs, cocktail parties, and restaurant menus typical of the time. Features 40+ color photographs, including drink images photographed on the set of Downton Abbey.

A LOOK INSIDE:

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Blog Tour Launch of There’s Something About Darcy, by Gabrielle Malcolm

There's Something About Darcy, by Gabrielle Mallcom (2019)For over two hundred years, Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy has been an enigma and an idol—prompting Pride and Prejudice fans to re-visit the novel, create books and movies, and inspire writers to model their own heroes after his noble mien to relive their time with him in the original novel.

What is it about Darcy that makes him so admired, igniting passionate debates? Is he an arrogant snob, or a shy introvert? Why does his character arc in the novel move some so deeply, and anger others? Why do some actors excel in their portrayal of the iconic hero on screen, and others fail? While the discussions continue, Dr. Gabrielle Malcolm offers insights on all these questions, and more, in her forthcoming There’s Something About Darcy, publishing on November 11, 2019, from Endeavour Quill.

Like Mr. Darcy, this new literary criticism is much more than what appears on first acquaintance. We will not proclaim it tolerable (as he did when he first met Elizabeth Bennet), but declare it as tempting as his £10,000 a year income to any grasping Regency era mother. Here is a description from the publisher and an exclusive excerpt from the author. 

BOOK DESCRIPTION: 

For some, Colin Firth emerging from a lake in that clinging wet shirt is one of the most iconic moments in television. What is it about the two-hundred-year-old hero that we so ardently admire and love?

Dr. Malcolm examines Jane Austen’s influences in creating Darcy’s potent mix of brooding Gothic hero, aristocratic elitist and romantic Regency man of action. She investigates how he paved the way for later characters like Heathcliff, Rochester and even Dracula, and what his impact has been on popular culture over the past two centuries. For twenty-first-century readers the world over have their idea of the ‘perfect’ Darcy in mind when they read the novel and will defend their choice passionately.

In this insightful and entertaining study, every variety of Darcy jostles for attention: vampire Darcy, digital Darcy, Mormon Darcy, and gay Darcy. Who does it best and how did a clergyman’s daughter from Hampshire create such an enduring character?

A must-read for every Darcy and Jane Austen fan.

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A Preview of Downton Abbey: The Official Film Companion, by Emma Marriott, with a Foreword by Julian Fellowes

Downton Abbey: The Official Film Companion (2019)Downtonites have been patiently awaiting the arrival of the Downton Abbey movie since its official announcement in the summer of 2018. The possibility of a feature film of the phenomenally popular British period drama television series had been rumored (and wished for) since the final episode of season six aired in the UK on Christmas day in 2015 on ITV and in the US on Masterpiece Classic PBS in March of 2016. We just cannot get enough of those posh upstairs Crawley’s and their devoted downstairs servants, can we? It took four long years to reach the big screen. Its premiere in the UK and the US this past September garnered major media attention and red-carpeted events.

My further hopes and wishes were granted with the publication of Downton Abbey: The Official Film Companion, a tie-in, over-sized, coffee table book featuring gorgeous full-color images from the production, interviews with the cast and crew, historical and social context, and insights into the storyline. Take a deep breath and a shot of brandy. This is very heady stuff for those devotees of the series around the globe.

Haven’t seen the film yet? Take heed and avert your eyes. I would not want to spoil one spectacular moment of your enjoyment. For those who have seen it, the book allows you to relive many of the special moments, fabulous costumes, idyllic scenery, and witty dialogue we were privileged to experience. Here is more information about this special volume for your enjoyment.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The official tie-in book for Downton Abbey, the full-length feature film.

Downton Abbey: The Official Film Companion is a stunning memento, bringing the world and the characters of our favorite fictional country house to life. Featuring spectacular photographs from the production, interviews with the cast and crew, and a look into the historical and geographical backdrop of the film, this official guide to the Downton Abbey film is made to be treasured and loved by fans across the globe.

The film revolves around the King and Queen making an official visit to Downton in 1927, and not only sees the return of all the main cast from the final television series but also introduces some great British actors to the world of Downton, as we meet the royal family and their retinue. The accompanying book is lavishly illustrated with stunning shots from both behind and in front of the camera, which capture some wonderful off-guard moments during filming, as well as the original costume illustrations.

AN EXCLUSIVE LOOK INSIDE:

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Jane Austen at Home: A Biography, by Lucy Worsley — A Review

Jane Austen at Home: A Biography, by Lucy Worsely (2017)From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

What can the places that Jane Austen called home tell us about the author’s life and work? In Jane Austen at Home, historian, author, and BBC presenter Lucy Worsley looks at the author’s life through the lens of Austen’s homes.  As Worsley notes in the book’s introduction, “For Jane, home was a perennial problem. Where could she afford to live? Amid the many domestic duties of an unmarried daughter and aunt, how could she find the time to write? Where could she keep her manuscripts safe?” (1) Worsley seeks to place Jane Austen “into her social class and time” while admitting that, as an Austen reader and biographer, she has a vision of the beloved author that allows Jane to speak for her and to her circumstances. “Jane’s passage through life, so smooth on the surface, seems sharply marked by closed doors, routes she could not take, choices she could not make. Her great contribution was to push those doors open, a little bit, for us in later generations to slip through.” (4)

Jane Austen at Home is divided into four major sections, titled as acts in a play. I thought this a lovely touch by Ms. Worsley, reminding readers of the Austen family’s love of amateur theatricals. “Act One: A Sunny Morning at the Rectory” covers Austen’s early life at Steventon Rectory in Hampshire (1775-1801). During this period, Jane traveled to relatives’ homes and even lived away at boarding schools for several years. Nonetheless, Steventon remained her place of safety until her father’s retirement forced Mr. and Mrs. Austen, along with Cassandra and Jane, to move to Bath.

Steventon Rectory, Hampshire

Steventon Rectory, Hampshire

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A Preview of The Daily Jane Austen: A Year of Quotes, by Jane Austen & Devoney Looser

The Daily Jane Austen: A Year of Quotes, by Jane Austen & Devoney Looser (2019) coverHot off the presses is a new Jane Austen quote book.

I know what you are thinking. Why do I need yet another pithy volume of my favorite author’s best lines jockeying for position on my bedside table along with my Jane Austen bobblehead and my “Waiting for Mr. Darcy” candle?

Well, …it really helps that this new compilation of daily quotes has been edited by, and the foreword written by, Stone Cold Jane Austen, a.k.a. Devoney Looser, Foundation Professor of English at Arizona State University, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar. Who could possibly be better qualified to compile my daily prayers? (Please. no trolls about my religious beliefs.)

Each chapter opens with a memorable passage heading up the month followed by daily quotes from Austen’s six major novels, minor works, and her letters. In the foreword, Looser extolls upon the significance of Jane Austen’s famous opening line in Pride and Prejudice, so often quoted in the news media, popular culture, and by fellow writers, “It is a truth universally acknowledged…” If you are not familiar with Jane Austen’s most famous quote you must be from another planet and desperately need this book to communicate with humans! (brainwashing included)

My Good Opinion Mug quoting Mr. Darcy

My Good Opinion Mug not included with The Daily Jane Austen, but it pairs beautifully.

Austen and her words have influenced movies, television, books, and world culture. She is indeed everywhere. I am staring at a “My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.” tea mug sitting beside me. I can totally relate to Looser’s admission that her, “…acknowledged truth is that I treasure the “sensibly scented” cardboard Austen that hangs in my car, just as others embrace their dashboards Jesus, fuzzy dice, or mud-flap girls.”

Okay, Enough with the Austen pop culture palooza. Here is the publisher’s stuff.

DESCRIPTION:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is eminently, delightfully, and delectably quotable. This truth goes far beyond the first line of Pride and Prejudice, which has muscled out many other excellent sentences. So many gems of wit and wisdom from her novels deserve to be better known, from Northanger Abbey on its lovable, naive heroine—“if adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad”—to Persuasion’s moving lines of love from its regret-filled hero: “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late.” Continue reading

A Preview of Jane Austen’s England: A Travel Guide, by Karin Quint

Jane Austen's England: A Travel Guide, by Karin Quint (2019)Every Jane Austen fan dreams of visiting her England – strolling through the Georgian streets of Bath in the footsteps of Catherine Morland; visiting Lyme Regis where Louisa Musgrove jumped from the Cobb seawall missing the arms of Captain Wentworth; picnicking on Box Hill like Emma Woodhouse and her party from HIghbury; touring Austen’s haunts of Regency London; and exploring her last home at Chawton Cottage in Hampshire. It is the ultimate pilgrimage to experience the rolling hills of her England, her fabled country homes, and the cities she frequented and wrote about in her novels.

Planning a trip like this could take months of research, or the services of a skilled company who specializes in Austen tours. Imagine having all that knowledge and expertise at your fingertips in one beautifully illustrated and detailed book?

Karin Quint’s new travel guide, Jane Austen’s England claims to be the “first and only travel guide that focuses on Austen’s life, work, and legacy.” Hmm? There are many other Austen-themed travel guides in print, but I do agree that this takes it to an entirely different level by focusing on her life, work, world, and country. Here is a preview of this new guide.

DESCRIPTION:

Walk in Jane Austen’s footsteps with this unique travel guide – the first book to explore England in relation to its most beloved Regency author. Rambling across the rolling fields of Hampshire, along the bustling streets of London and around the golden crescents of Bath, Jane Austen’s England is the perfect companion for any Janeite planning a pilgrimage.

Functionally arranged by region, each chapter tracks down the most iconic scenes from both the big and little screen, as well as the key destinations where Jane lived, danced and wrote. Descriptions of each location are interspersed with biographical anecdotes and local history. Subsections focus on various stately homes that have been featured in every adaptation of every novel, from the beloved Pride and Prejudice television series (1995, Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016).

With a compilation of websites, seasonal opening hours and tour details, this compact book contains everything you need to immerse yourself in Austen.

A LOOK INSIDE:

 

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Preview of The Lost Books of Jane Austen, by Janine Barchas

The Lost Books of Jane Austen, by Janine Barcas (2019)Since the advent of mass-produced books in the late 1800’s, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of different editions created of Jane Austen’s novels and minor works. While I will not publicly admit how many I own, *cough* I will share that there is more than one copy of her six major works in my bookcase. I have known a few Janeites who admit that they are hell-bent on collecting every old and new edition of Pride and Prejudice ever published. That is an obsession that will soon require a library as large as Pemberley’s expansive shelves.

After reading the description of Janine Barchas’ new book, The Lost Books of Jane Austen, I have a feeling that the author may be in that obsessed category of book collectors too. We are a rare breed and she has my total sympathy and approval.

DESCRIPTION:

Hardcore bibliography meets Antiques Roadshow in an illustrated exploration of the role that cheap reprints played in Jane Austen’s literary celebrity―and in changing the larger book world itself.

In the nineteenth century, inexpensive editions of Jane Austen’s novels targeted to Britain’s working classes were sold at railway stations, traded for soap wrappers, and awarded as school prizes. At just pennies a copy, these reprints were some of the earliest mass-market paperbacks, with Austen’s beloved stories squeezed into tight columns on thin, cheap paper. Few of these hard-lived bargain books survive, yet they made a substantial difference to Austen’s early readership. These were the books bought and read by ordinary people. Continue reading

Preview of Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune: How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen’s England, by Rory Muir

Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen's England by Rory Muir (2019)In Jane Austen’s novels, we discover the plight of younger sons who because of the English primogeniture laws, could not inherit their father’s estate and must find their own way in the world. Colonel Fitzwilliam in Pride and Prejudice and Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey come immediately to mind. This father to first son inheritance tradition is the axis of the social structure of British society and is tightly bound to its restrictions. Historian Rory Muir explores this dilemma and the courses available to younger sons in his new history book, Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune: How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen’s England. Using Austen’s characters, her own family, and historical figures as examples, we are taken on a journey through the era to discover what options were available to younger sons of “good families” to find an acceptable profession and earn an independent living.

DESCRIPTION:

A portrait of Jane Austen’s England told through the career paths of younger sons—men of good family but small fortune.

In Regency England, the eldest son usually inherited almost everything while his younger brothers, left with little inheritance, had to make a crucial decision: what should they do to make an independent living? Rory Muir weaves together the stories of many obscure and well-known young men, shedding light on an overlooked aspect of Regency society. This is the first scholarly yet accessible exploration of the lifestyle and prospects of these younger sons. Continue reading